Posts Tagged ‘mele’

Star Cloud PCG61 Intel Celeron “Braswell” Ubuntu 16.04 / Windows 10 Pro Mini PC Features Up to 8GB RAM

July 28th, 2016 6 comments

MeLE showcased their PCG61U mini PC powered by an Intel Celeron N3150 processor and running Ubuntu last April at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair. The company has now launched Star Cloud PCG61 on Aliexpress where it sells for $149 and up with either Windows or Ubuntu.

Star_Cloud_PCG61Star Cloud PCG61 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Braswell Celeron N3150 quad core processor @ 1.60/2.08 GHz with 12 EU Gen8 Graphics(6W TDP)
  • System Memory – None, 4 or 8GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 0, 64 or 128 GB mSATA SSD (upgradeable up to 256GB), micro SD card up to 512GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 & VGA
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm microphone and earphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n & 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – Power button, Kensington security lock, reset BIOS button,  mini PCIe slot (likely already used by wireless module)
  • Power – 12V DC input
  • Dimensions & weight – N/A (Aluminum case with “patented fanless cooling design”)

That’s the first time I see a “Reset BIOS” button, and considering problems people had with Wintel Pro CX-W8, it might be worthwhile feature to have in case you have “bricked” your computer with wrong BIOS settings.

Ubuntu-16.04_Braswell_mini_PCThe fanless mini PC can be bought pre-loaded with Ubuntu 16.04, Windows 10 Pro, or without any operating systems as it is sold in four configurations:

  • Barebone without memory nor storage – $149
  • Ubuntu 16.04 with 4GB RAM, 64 GB SSD – $199
  • Windows 10 Pro with 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD – $299
  • Windows 10 Pro with 8GB RAM, 128 GB SSD – $349

All prices include shipping by registered air mail. It’s pretty clear Windows 10 Pro is properly licensed considering the price difference with the Ubuntu version for the same hardware.HDMI_VGA_Mini_PCVia

Star Cloud PCG03U Bay Trail Ubuntu mini PC with 2GB RAM, 64GB Storage Sells for $90

July 8th, 2016 11 comments

Last year, I reviewed MeLE PCG03 mini PC with Windows 8.1. and later upgraded it to Windows 10, but the company has now started to launch Ubuntu based TV sticks and mini PCs, under their new Star Cloud brand, with for example Star Cloud PCG02U TV stick, and now they’ve just launched Star Cloud PCG03U running Ubuntu 14.04 for $89.59 shipped on Aliexpress.

Ubuntu_Bay_Trail_mini_PCStar Cloud PCG03U specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz / 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 64 GB eMMC + SD card slot (up to 512 GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi up to 300 Mbps, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports (The specs mention 1x USB 3.0 port, but it should be impossible since Z3735F does not support USB 3.0)
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, Kensington security lock
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A (12W max)
  • Dimensions – 150 x 120 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 360 grams

The mini PC will ship with a 12V power supply and internal plug adapters, as well as a Quick Start Guide. Compared to the windows version (PCG03), the storage has been upgraded to 64GB (was 32 GB), and Bluetooth has been dropped, probably because of drivers issues… The specs on AliexpressThe latter also explains why it’s running Ubuntu 14.04, and not Ubuntu 16.04, which require a more recent Linux kernel, and has not been found to be that stable on Bay Trail and Cherry Trail platforms. If you want a system that works well with the latest Ubuntu 16.04 version, you may need to wait for their Start Cloud PCG61U Braswell mini PC.

Star_Cloud_PCG03UThey appear to have used the same case and cooling solution, which I found to be of excellent, so the $90 price is pretty good for this machine, and they probable sell it with little margins. For comparison, MeLE PCG03 is now sold for $159.99.


Updating Star Cloud PCG02U to Ubuntu 16.04 with WiFi and HDMI Audio Support

May 26th, 2016 21 comments

I completed my review of PCG02U Ubuntu TV stick a few days ago, and I was quite satisfied with the device, but since Ubuntu 16.04 was released last month, I thought it might be fun to upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu. I’m go through the complete steps including building a new kernel for HDMI audio, and the drivers for WiFi, but you should be able to install Ubuntu 16.04 for Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processor with the image made by Linuxium and a USB stick.

Star Cloud PCG02U OS Support and Warranty

Before I go through the instructions, you may want to read the conditions on MeLE’s Aliexpress PCG02U page.

PCG02U_Linux_OS_WarningThey meant Ubuntu 14.04 instead of 14.0.4, but the important part is that if something goes wrong trying alternative OS, you may lose your warranty.

Upgrade Ubuntu 14.04 to Ubuntu 16.04

Upgrading from one LTS version to the next should be easy using the update manager…

… or doing it through the terminal entirely:

However, it did not work for me, as it quickly ended with the message:

I noticed that PCG02U was still stuck on Ubuntu 14.04.3 LTS, despite running dist-upgrade:

After trying several solutions, I eventually changed the Ubuntu mirror, and the steps above completed successfully with Ubuntu 16.04 running.

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At least two little problems though: I lost HDMI audio with only Dummy Output available, and while Ethernet was still working after the update, WiFi support was gone… But if you don’t need either you’re good to go.

Enabling HDMI audio in PCG02U

Luckily we already have the instructions to enable HDMI audio for Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processors, all we need is a Linux 4.5 kernel and patch it. I’ll do everything inside PCG02U, and I have not used a separate build machine, which would likely be faster. Tip: you’ll need gcc 4.9 or greater. I used the instruction here and there.

First let’s build the dependencies required to build the kernel in Ubuntu.

Now let’s get the patches in a working directory

as well as the Linux 4.5.1 kernel patched for Ubuntu and the Intel Atom HDMI audio support:

Now we can configure the build:

This will ask which config files to configure for AMD64, i386, ARM and so on. We only need to edit the first one (AMD64). Once you are in the config menu, use menuconfig search function to locate SUPPORT_HDMI option and enable it. Exit and save.

Before starting the build add something like “+some_string” to the end of the first version number in the debian.master/changelog> file. I added +hdmi_audio string:

You can now start the build with:

However, the build did not complete for me, with the error:

I followed the instructions on askubuntu, and disabled set do_zfs = false in debian.master/rules.d/, and completed the build with the same command line. It took around 2 to 3 to complete the build on PCG02U, and I had a bunch of deb packages…

.. and I installed the headers and image:

Rebooted the system, which booted successfully, and I could confirm HDMI audio was back. Yes!

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But still no WiFi… and space was running now, so I did some cleaning which gave me a few gigabytes to play with:

Building Realtek RTL8723BS WiFi Driver in Ubuntu/Linux

Star Cloud PCG02U uses  a WiFi and Bluetooth module with the common Realtek RTL8723BS chip, but the driver is not currently in mainline, so it needs to be compiled separately. That part is straightforward, and only take 2 minutes or less:

That’s all and now the Wireless network is enabled:

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I had no problems connecting to my wireless router, and the module is automatically loaded at boot time. So now we have the same level of support as in Ubuntu 14.04 with HDMI audio and WiFi.

Realtek RTL8732BS Bluetooth in Linux

However, the hardware also supports Bluetooth, so it would be nice to have this enabled too, and again RTL8723BS Linux Bluetooth driver is available thanks to one independent developer (lwfinger).

In theory, it’s pretty easy:

But this did not work for me, despite Bluetooth apparently being located on /dev/ttyS4:

But the log would show a connection timeout:

Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a solution in a reasonable amount of time, and changing the baudrate from 115200 in the script to 2764800 (as shown in dmesg) does not help.

Of course everything would be so much easier if HDMI audio Cherry Trial and Bay Trial and RTL8723BS drivers would be in mainline linux, as all you would have to do would be to install Mainline linux in Ubuntu, and everything would just work. This does require some work however, but if you are motivated, lwfinger is ready to submit the RTL8723BS WiFi code to mainline if somebody takes care of all the errors and warnings generated by

Star Cloud PCG02U Ubuntu 14.04 TV Stick Review

May 24th, 2016 9 comments

Star Cloud PCG02U is the first Ubuntu product from MeLE. After taking a few pictures of the TV stick and the board, I’ve tested the performance and functionality of the device.

First Boot and Setup

You can either connected the stick directly into an HDMI port, or using the provided female to female adapter via an HDMI cable. I’ve opted to insert the device directly into the AUX port of my Onkyo A/V receiver itself connected to my TV. Since there’s only one USB host port, USB keyboard and mouse are not convenient since it would add a USB hub, so I went with Logitech MK270r wireless mouse & keyboard combo instead. You can either used Ethernet or WiFi for Internet connectivity, and I opted for the latter for most of the review, but WiFi is also working fine.

Star_Cloud_PCG02U_Ubuntu_TV_Stick_AV_ReceiverThe final step is to connect the power supply into the micro USB port, and boot the device which takes around 20 seconds. Power consumption is a low 3.4 watts in idle mode, and 0.4 watts while powered off. The system automatically login to Unity desktop shell with user “pp” without password. But if you do need to perform some administrative tasks as root, pp password is 123456.

PCG02U_User_AccountsSo you’ll probably want to go to “User Accounts” to Unlock the settings, and either add a password to pp, or create a new user.

PCG02U_Time_DateTime is set to New Year by default, so I changed that to match my local, as well as the Clock setting to display the time using a 24-hour clock, instead of the default 12-hour clock.

PCG02U_Software_Update_Server_ConfigThe download server for updates is configured to use servers in China by default. This  will likely be slow in most countries, so you’ll want to select a server for your country, or simply use the “Select Best Server” feature.

Ubuntu_Select_Best_ServerI also disabled “Online search” and removed “Amazon” icon from the dashboard.

Ubuntu_Disable_AmazonI completed the initial setup by installing the latest updates as well as OpenSSH server:

PCG02U System Information

Now that I have a system configured to my taste, let’s check some of the system information from the terminal start with Ubuntu and Linux kernel versions:

It’s not surprising that they went with Linux 3.16 since it was the only option to get HDMI audio until recently. MeLE did use Linuxium image possibly with some modifications.

MeLE also created pp user, but I’m not sure they did other improvements.

I still had 20GB free storage after installing the latest upgrade, with LibreOffice and Firefox pre-installed.

The system reports 1.9GB memory and a 1.9GB swap partition that’s barely used.

You can only see 159 MB free memory, simply because of lot of it is used as buffer/cache, not because Ubuntu is about to run out of memory.

cpuinfo show four cores, but I’m only showing one below.

Finally, I’ve installed hardinfo mostly to confirm the previous findings.


Star Cloud PCG02U Benchmarks

Phoronix Benchmark

I’ll first use Phoronix to benchmark the TV stick.

I also installed psensor to monitor the CPU tempetature.

Before running the same benchmarks that was run on several ARM Linux development boards.

You can find the results on, but as the tests were underway, the temperature seemed under control never going above 79 C, and I soon realized that the governor was setup to “Powersave”, so I changed that to “Performance”, and ran the tests again.

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So finally we have the results for both lowpower and performance governors, and the results are not that much different. Let’s see some of the results compared to  ARM boards. Please note that “MeUbuntu 14.04.3” is actually the test for PCG02U in powersave mode.

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First Star Cloud PCG02 is faster than ARM boards in some, but not all of the tests.


John the ripper multi-threaded password cracker still works best on Banana Pi M3 octa-core ARM Cortex A7 board.

PCG02U_Himeno_Benchmark_3.0But Himeno benchmark is way much faster on Intel than ARM. Himeno page mentions that version 1.2.0 “use AVX2 by default if available”, so while the test still used version 1.10, and I did not find x86 optimization in the source code, it’s quite possible the compiler makes use a SIMD instruction on Intel, but not on ARM, or that ARM NEON is not quite as good as SSE2, AVX… instructions on Intel processors.

PCG02_FLAC_Audio_EncodingFLAC audio encoding is also confirming the better performance of the Intel platform here, although the gap to ODROID-XU4 is not as wide as for Himeno benchmark. Audio encoding would also benefit from SIMD instructions so that may explain it.

Network Performance

I tested both Ethernet and WiFi with iperf.

Full duplex transfer with Fast Ethernet shows very good performance:

I repeated the test with WiFi in one direction only, and the connection seems pretty good too:

Storage performance

I install IOZone to benchmark the internal flash.

I used the command line armbian community uses to test random read and write speed initially:

Random read @ 121 MB/s and write at 70MB/s is not too bad, but I can’t explain why they are random I/O are faster than sequential ones, so I repeated the test again with basically the same results.

I did two more runs with a larger file to test sequential read and write speed more accurately.

75MB/s sequential write speed and 125 MB/s sequential read speed are rather typical values for low cost Intel platforms.

Star Cloud PCG02U Usability Testing

In the final part of the review, I’ve test some common apps including:

  • Chrome web browser
    • Multitab browser
    • Adobe flash with Candy Crush Saga game
    • YouTube playing at 1080p
  • Libreoffice with text files, spreadsheet and presentations
  • Kodi 16.1 playing 1080p60 H.264 and 1080p24 H.265 videos
  • SuperTuxKart 3D games

You can watch the user’s experience in the video below.

Basically, I’m very happy with the performance of the device for desktop tasks, as everything worked smoothly. Video playback in YouTube and Kodi 16.1 ws not 100% perfect though, but still watchable, and finally SuperTuxKart ran pretty well at around 25 fps.

Overall, I’ve very satisfied with MeLE PCG02U TV stick, especially considering the $70 price tag, and you’ve got a fully working Ubuntu device suitable for desktop tasks, although multi-tasking should probably be limited due to the 2GB RAM. I’d like to thank MeLE for providing the sample, but we should also thank Linuxium for his work on the Ubuntu for Intel Atom Z3735F devices. You can currently purchase Star Cloud PCG02U for $69.76 including shipping, except for resident of the United Stated, Canada and Mexico, because MeLE has an agreement with another reseller targeting business consumers.

Star Cloud PCG02U Ubuntu TV Stick Unboxing and Teardown

May 14th, 2016 11 comments

Star Cloud PCG02U is one of the rare device selling pre-loaded with Ubuntu 14.04, and MeLE, who owns Start Cloud brand, sent me one sample for review. While many Android & Windows devices can be “hacked” to run Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Star Cloud PCG02U is the first device that I’ve ever received that’s actually shipped with Ubuntu 14.04. So it will be very interesting to find out how it performs, but today, I’ll check the device and its accessories, as well as the hardware design.

Star Cloud PCG02 Unboxing

The TV stick ships  in a Ubuntu orange retail packaging with Star Cloud branding, and mention of Ubuntu and Intel.
Star_Cloud_PCG02U_PackageI had already published the specifications in my first post, a confirmation on the package is always good.

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The TV stick ships with a 5V/2A power adapter and multi-country plug adapters, a female to female HDMI adapter, a Quick Start Guide in English, and a notice reading “Caution Hot” that warns you the thing may get hot. It’s not really reassuring, but the case is made of metal used to dissipate heat from the processor, so that’s probably why.

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The stick has two levels of thickness due to the Ethernet port on one of the ends.

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Other ports include an HDMI 1.4 male port, a Kensington lock, a full size USB port, a micro USB port for power only, the power button, and a micro SD slot. There’s also an external WiFi antenna.

Mele_PCG01_Star_Cloud_PCG02Finally, I’ve taken a picture with MeLE PCG01 TV stick to show PCG02 is both longer and thicker due to the Ethernet port.

Star Cloud PCG02U Teardown

You’ll need some sharp tool, preferably in plastic, to take out the metal cover on the bottom.
They’ve installed a thermal pad to conduct heat to the enclosure.

Removing it reveals Realtek RTL8723BS 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (2.4 GHz only) and Bluetooth 4.0 module, and the RTC battery seen through cuts out of a metal shield. I’m not sure Bluetooth is supported by the included driver, as MeLE did not list this feature in their specs.

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After removing the shield we can see FORESEE NCEMBSF9-32GB eMMC flash (32GB), and two Samsung K4B4G1646Q-HYK0 DDR3 ram chips (2 x 512 MB). The next step is to loosen the three screws to take out the mainboard from the case. Be careful not to damage the Wifi antenna wire, or the wires connected to the Ethernet daughter board during this step.

Star_Cloud_PCG02U_CoolingThere’s also a metal shield on that part of the PCB, and more thermal pads and various metal plates for cooling the fanless stick. Three or four bit of the shield go through the board, and a folded to open it in place. So first I had to straightnen out those, and I could remove the shield.

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One that side, we’ve got Intel Atom Z3735F Bay Trail processor,  two more Samsung RAM chip that brings the total to 2GB, and AXP288D PMIC. I’ve finally removed one more bock with a metal sheet, a metal plate, and a thermal pad to uncover the Ethernet “daughter board”.

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Ethernet is implemented with AXIS AX8872CLF USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, M-TEK H16107SEG 10/100M Ethernet transformer, as well as what should an EEPROM to store the MAC address. One more thermal pad and metal sheet have been installed to make sure the device cools properly. At least, they’ve made some serious efforts working on the thermal design, but we’ll have to see how well it works.

I’d like to Thanks MeLE for sending Star Cloud PCG02U Bay Trail Ubuntu TV stick for review, and if you are interested you can purchase it on Aliexpress for $69.74 including shipping. Please note that MeLE PCG02U will not ship to North America (US, Canada, Mexico), as distribution will be handled by a yet-to-be disclosed third party.

MeLE PCG02U Ubuntu TV Stick is Now Available for $70

April 26th, 2016 10 comments

MeLE unveiled Start Cloud PCG02U Ubuntu TV stick powered by Intel Atom Z3735F processor with 1 to 2GB RAM and 32 GB flash a few weeks ago. The TV stick is a variation of PCG02 TV stick running Windows 10, but featuring an Ubuntu orange case, and running Ubuntu 14.04. The company has now launched the 2GB RAM version for $69.99 shipped on their Aliexpress store.


MeLE PCG02U specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F  “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz / 1.83 GHz with Intel HD graphics Gen 7 (2W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB port (for power only)
  • Misc – Power button, Kensington lock
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port.
  • Dimensions – 115 x 49 x 16.5 mm

The TV stick ships with Ubuntu 14.04.4. Since HDMI audio drivers have now been ported to mainline Linux for Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processors, it should be easier to upgraded than before when such TV sticks would have to be stuck with Linux 3.16. I’m not sure what exact image MeLE is using there, or if they have done anything themselves on the software side, but Linuxium has very recently released a Ubuntu 16.04 image for Bay Trail mini PCs so it should definitively be possible to upgrade to a newer version on PCG02U too.

PCG02U_Ubuntu_mini_PCI’ve never reviewed PCG02 myself, but their earlier MeLE PCG01 TV stick had very good build quality. Provided they’ve kept the name components, the company has also gone very aggressive with PCG02U pricing, as MeLE PCG02 (Windows 10) is now selling for $145 on Aliexpress.


MeLE StarCloud PCG61U Ubuntu Mini PC is Powered by Intel Braswell Celeron Processor

April 12th, 2016 2 comments

So far, most Chinese manufactures of Intel based mini PCs simply ignored Linux distributions, with Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 the only game in town. However, a few days ago, we found out about MeLE PCG02-U TV stick running Ubuntu on Intel Atom Z3735F processor, but the company appears to now taking Ubuntu more seriously as they are now promoting two other Ubuntu products with PCG01-U TV stick, and MeLE StarCloud PCG61U Braswell mini PC at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair.

MeLE_PCG61-UThe product is not finalized, but the main specifications are already known:

  • SoC – Intel Braswell Celeron processor @ 1.6 to 2.08 GHz with 12 EU Gen8 Graphics, likely Celeron N3150 processor (6W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2, 4 or 8 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32, 64 or 128 GB internal storage, or HDD/SSD slot, SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI & VGA
  • Audio – HDMI, microphone and earphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – USB 3.0
  • Expansion – mini PCIe slot(s)

The video below shows the two TV sticks, and quick mention of the mini PC.

Mass production of MeLE PCG61-U is expected at the end of May, so the tiny computer will likely ship with Ubuntu 16.04 scheduled to be released at the end of April. Contrary to systems based on Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processors which have their set of issues with Linux, Braswell mini PCs such as MINIX NGC-1 runs Linux distributions fairly well, and Linuxium reported features such as WiFi, audio and Bluetooth all worked out of the box with an Ubuntu installation from the standard ISO file.

Price has not been decided yet, and will depend on memory and storage options.

Via NetbookItalia

MeLE PCG02U Intel Bay Trail TV Stick Runs Ubuntu, Costs $59

April 8th, 2016 18 comments

Once I asked MeLE if they planned to sells Bay Trail Ubuntu mini PCs, and they did not really seem interested, but the company has now changes their mind, as they are about to launch PCG02U TV stick powered by Intel Atom Z3735F processor with 1GB RAM, and 32GB flash for $59, which is likely to be the factory price, not the retail price.


MeLE PCG02U specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F  “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics Gen 7 (2W TDP)
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + micro SD slot
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB port (for power only)
  • Misc – Power button, Kensington lock
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port.
  • Dimensions – N/A

These specifications are very similar to MeLE PCG02 TV stick running Windows 10, except the memory has been decrease to 1GB, and the case is now Ubuntu Orange. A version with 2GB RAM will also be available for $69. Charbax got a short demo with the stick at MeLE office.

Some other manufacturer such as MeegoPad also provided Ubuntu TV sticks, but they simply loaded images made by Linuxium, and not even the latest one. We’ll have to see what MeLE provides, and the retail price. For reference, Ubuntu PCG02 with 2GB RAM now sells for $98.60 including shipping and a Windows 10 license, so I’d expect the Ubuntu version to be slightly cheaper since it does not include the Windows 10 “mini PCs” license, and the version with 1GB RAM to be even cheaper.